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The Independent Critic

Written and Directed by
Trevor Juenger
Erik A. Williams, Joe Hammerstone, Katie Deerest, Catie Lax (Voice)
Running Time
44 Mins.

 "Johnny Be Gone" Review 

Written and directed by Trevor Juenger, the 44-minute short film Johnny Be Gone opens with a savage and humiliating beating inflicted upon our central character, a transsexual named Johnny (Erik A. Williams) who seems to rightfully have a few unresolved issues and who seems primarily motivated by an overwhelming desire for acceptance. The only person who begins to accept Johnny is his roommate Logan (Joe Hammerstone), but this relationship feels constantly off-kilter and bordering on unsafe emotionally and physically.  When Johnny returns home one day, he finds Logan having sex with the local sandwich shop girl (Katie Deerest). As our film unfolds, the emotionally fragile Johnny retreats into a fantasy world where he finds himself conversing with a rabbit (Catie Lax).

If by now you haven't had such thoughts and images cross through your mind as Matthew Shephard, Brandon Teena, Harmony Korine and a host of others, then there's a pretty darn good chance that this dark, dramatic and emotionally disturbing short film is not for you. Johnny Be Gone is not light cinema, and Juenger maintains such an integrity to his artist vision that he absolutely refuses to let up on the gas to give the audience a breather.

Johnny Be Gone represents my favorite kind of filmmaking ... ballsy, relentless, experimental and unnerving. It's tempting to compare this film to a Hollywood film and say that Hollywood would have sugar-coated the story and created the greeting card style happy ending. The truth is that Hollywood wouldn't touch this film, and with no studio to answer to Juenger makes the film he wants to in exactly the style he wants to make it.

Erik A. Williams is simply astounding, sometimes sympathetic and sometimes simply pathetic, an emotional man/woman/child all rolled into one who can't seem to become comfortable with who he is, who can love or how to avoid the humiliation that seems to have an almost inevitable presence in his daily life.  Joe Hammerstone is fine as a young man who isn't nearly as comfortable with Johnny as one might expect. However, at a mere 44 minutes, it's hard not to wish for more Johnny and less Logan, who amounts to a supporting player in a film that is squarely about Johnny. Katie Deerest shines as a sandwich shop girl who is initially rather mean to Johnny, but moves towards being a more sympathetic presence and represents
a tiny sliver of humanity in a film that is largely devoid of it.

Charlie Vavrinek's original music is nothing short of amazing, a stunning companion to Juenger's artistic vision and the grainy and dark camera work of Nick Brian Walters.  Even

An uncomfortable and heartbreakingly authentic exploration of intolerance, human connection, self-image and so much more, Trevor Juenger's Johnny Be Gone is the kind of film that underground, experimental and LGBT film festivals cry out for and should openly embrace. Not for the faint of heart or easily shaken, Johnny Be Gone is a brutal film but not so much in the way that we've become accustomed to in contemporary horror. Johnny Be Gone is, on a certain level, even more frightening because it illustrates the brutality within ourselves and the world that surrounds us emotionally and physically.